Thursday, May 14, 2009

Casual Listening - Mark O'Connor, Bobby Sanabria, Steve Earle

Casual Listening

a review of cool new music

by Jeff Pinzino

May 15, 2009

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! Mark O’Connor – String Quartets No.’s 2 & 3 (classical)

If more contemporary composers were able to connect classical and popular forms with the confidence of Mark O’Connor, we’d be well on our way to reversing the exodus of audiences from the nation’s concert halls. The two quartets presented here are inspired by string band music (one is subtitled “bluegrass,” the other “old time”), yet show a thoroughly modern complexity, both harmonically and rhythmically.

Listen to Mark O’Connor – from “String Quartet No. 2 ‘Bluegrass’

! Bobby Sanabria conducting the Manhattan Afro-Cuban Jazz Orchestra –

Kenya Revisited Live (jazz)

It doesn’t get any hotter than this. Sanabria is the new millennium apostle of Latin jazz, and he’s enlisted an orchestra to recreate one of the masterpieces of the genre. He’s even got Candido Camero, who played congas on the original recording with Machito 50 years ago. Five minutes listening and you’ll realize why every jazz musician of the day dropped everything they were doing and taught themselves to play this music.

Listen to Bobby Sanabria “Wild Jungle

And for those who are interested, here’s Machito’s original “Wild Jungle

! Márcio Local ­– Marcio Local Says Don Day Don Dree Don Don (bluegrass)

Local is one of the inheritors of Tropicalia, the rich stew of jazz, rock, funk, and samba that started coming out of Brazil in the 1960’s. You’ll hear casually sung (and sometimes rapped) Portuguese lyrics over horns, electric organ, and a bucketful of percussion. This is instant summer jam: just add beach.

Listen to Márcio Local “Samba Sem Nenhum Problema

Steve Earle – Townes (folk)

Steve Earle has been waiting his whole career to make this album. The country-rock iconoclast is interpreting the work of Townes Van Zandt, Earle’s hero and mentor, who could be described as a rugged man’s Bob Dylan. Most of the western ballads receive a straightforward treatment with solo acoustic guitar. The rest are portraits in blues, bluegrass, roadhouse, or modern rock with a band configured to evoke the mood. What’s distinctive is the degree to which Earle owns these songs, many of which are as close to him as ones he’s written himself.

Listen to Steve Earle “To Live Is To Fly

Meat Puppets – Sewn Together (rock)

The sound shimmers, the tunes grip, and the harmonies curl around you. Despite their storied underground history, what’s distinctive about the Meat Puppets today is that they come across as an ordinary band that’s very good at what they do. Anyone who followed R.E.M. through the ‘80s will recognize both the sound and the style.

Listen to Meat Puppets “Blanket of Weeds

* highly recommended

! highest recommendation

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